Posted by: Bob Clark | September 12, 2006

The Anchor of Christology

“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched–this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We write this to make our joy complete” (1 John 1:1-4).

The September 8, 2006 edition of The Washington Times carried an article by David R. Sands entitled “Episcopal bishops hit ‘inappropriate’ speech.” Sands reports the opposition of some bishops to the decision to invite former Iranian President Mohammed Khatami to speak at the Washington National Cathedral which is “the seat of the presiding bishop of the church’s American branch.” What caused the opposition? Was it the former president’s lack of belief in Jesus as the Son of God? No. The critics called the invitation “ill-conceived and inappropriate” because of “the Iranian regime’s stance on women’s rights, homosexuality and Israel.”

In his volume on the letters of John in The NIV Life Application Commentary, Gary Burge tells the story of his friend who was a student at the Harvard Divinity School. Upon finding out that one of the professors was agnostic; his friend began inquiring about the diversity of beliefs among the faculty. “Anything goes” was the response. When his friend pressed, asking “You mean no belief or absence of belief would keep one from being hired to teach theology?” The response was clarified: “Only one, the refusal to endorse women’s ordination.” Burge concludes: “Regardless of how one feels on this subject, John would anchor the starting point (or litmus test) of Christian theology elsewhere. The absence of a sound Christology is John’s test” (p. 60).

These stories have provoked me to do some thinking, even soul-searching, about the place of sound Christology in my life and to our church family at Skyline.

  • How important is Christology in the letters of John? How important is it elsewhere in the New Testament?
  • Is Christology the only test of fellowship in John’s letters? If so, is that solely due to the occasional nature of the letter? If not, what are the other tests?
  • What role does Christology play in our belief system at Skyline? Does it provide an anchor for our identity as a faith community? If not, what does? If so, do we need to give more attention to Christology?
  • Is it biblical for other issues to trump Christology in matters of fellowship? If not, how developed does our Christology need to be? If so, where are the passages where Christology is trumped by other issues?
  • Do we have some “blind spot” that is just as obvious to everyone else as those of the Harvard Divinity School and the Washington National Cathedral are to us?There are many other questions for meditation raised by a reading of the letters of John. For example, in the prologue to his first letter, John writes about the inter-relatedness of proclamation, fellowship, and joy. Most of the questions we raise when working with the text involve the proclamation and the fellowship. Seldom do we even pause to reflect on the important place of joy in the community of faith, and yet joy is identified by John as the very reason for his writing.

    Are you hungry for God? The more time we spend wrestling in prayer over these letters, the more we come to know Him. May God help us as we seek Him with all our heart, mind, and strength. May God Himself – Father, Son, and Spirit – be the anchor we so desperately need in our lives.

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